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SpaceSim - An Object Oriented Discrete Event Simulation for Spaceports

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The SpaceSim Spaceport and Launch Systems Simulation.


The NASA vision for the spaceport of the future entails the transition over time from spaceports that are very high-cost and only capable of a relatively low frequency of launches, to spaceports that are capable of supporting multiple launches per day in a safe, cost-effective manner. The spaceport of the future may resemble our current airports and seaports of today and will need to resolve many challenges that were seen in the history of those transportation hubs as they grew. These challenges include (1) safe and secure spaceport operations, (2) efficient and large-scale movement of machinery and people through the spaceport, and (3) cost-efficient, affordable, productive, and timely spaceport operations.


Discrete event simulation is used to analyze detailed processes at modern day seaports and airports. Like these more domestic ports, spaceport operations are also labor, facility and equipment intensive. The efficiency of any port operation is improved through proper use of all assets. SpaceSim addresses spaceport operations in the context of launch vehicle flight hardware elements (FHEs) and spaceport assets such as buildings, rail sites, landing sites, transport equipment and docks. This simulation uses Java programming language to provide for maximum portability and utilizes XML to ease any data interchange with others and with other tools.


The overall goal of SpaceSim analysis is to lend insight for many aspects of decision making early in any planning or development process. Later implementation and real-world operations will thus have maximized the throughput and productiveness of resources while minimizing overall costs.


SpaceSim provides:

  • The ability to play “what-if” scenarios on the computer with an emphasis on facilities prior to making large non-recurring capital investments.

  • The ability to play "what-if" scenarios on the computer with an emphasis on recurring operational timelines prior to investing too far in any specific change or decision for a concept of operations.

  • A Java based platform, requiring no further software to run.

    • Graphs sizing and zoom features.

  • Reusable hierarchies of space transportation flight hardware and ground support facilities as objects.

  • Distributions for inputs, including beta, exponential, gamma, normal, pearson v, triangular, uniform, weibull or constant.

  • Setup parameters such as warm-up period, replications and run time, thus bringing out the effect of process variance on any final goal such as launches over time and facility utilization over time.

  • Built in graphical as well as text output reports.

NASA KSC awarded a Phase III SBIR to Nevins Software on 11/30/06 with a duration of 4 months to add features to existing software. These features added generic capability to the software while making it more applicable to the NASA Exploration program and the Constellation program architecture elements.


As of March 28, 2007, SpaceSim Ph. III had completed test / verification, with a representation of the Orion Ares I, including the CEV Operations & Checkout facility processes, a combination of rebuild, assembly, entry and integration stands.


SpaceSim output screens.


The Team:

  • NASA Kennedy Space Center

    • Martin Steele PhD, Discrete Event Simulation Lead

    • Edgar Zapata, Testing, Analysis and Contracting Officer Technical Representative (COTR)

  • Nevins Software

    • Mike Nevins, Lead Developer & Product Manager


  • For further information on this project contact Martin Steele PhD of NASA KSC.


Website Contact: Edgar Zapata, NASA Kennedy Space Center